NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
SENGOKU LORD IN NAGOYA
APRIL 20, 2019
AICHI PREFECTURAL GYMNASIUM
SHOTA UMINO & REN NARITA DEF. YOTA TSUJI & YUYA UEMURA
This match was everything I expected it to be and at 7:37 it was shorter than I expected it to be to deliver the goods.
The Young Lions teams engaged in some shoving before the bell and you knew it was going to be heated.
Early on Umino and Tsuji had some stiff forearms strike exchanges both on the ground and standing up.
From there, the match transitioned to Tsuji being worked over and the guy in peril. Visually it was a little weird for Tsuji to play that role given his size, especially compared to his partner.
Once Uemura is tagged in, he and Tsuji finally manage to get the upper hand for a bit with a double Dropkick on Umino. Uemura even gets a near fall on Narita with a double underhook suplex, but ultimately falls to a Northern Lights Suplex from Narira. This was tons of fun with the Young Lions really laying into each other. ***1/2
SUZUKIGUN (MINORU SUZUKI, TAICHI, EL DESPERADO, YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & TAKA MICHINOKU) DEF. YUJI NAGATA, SATOSHI KOJIMA, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER, TOMOAKI HONMA & TOA HENARE
Taichi got a noticeably big pop when he was introduced. One of the biggest of all the wrestlers in this match. He’s still over folks.
Matched was worked smartly. Honma started for his team, hit a Kokeshi on TAKA and tagged out and was never tagged in again in the match.
Honma tagged out because Suzuki had been tagged in and pointed at Liger. We were then treated to a beatdown of Liger from Suzukigun. Nothing spectacular but it was fun and it got great heat. Taichi even tried to rip off Liger’s mask to big jeers.
Liger then made a comeback and tagged in Nagata. From that point we got everyone else on the Hontai team to go through their usual spots.
The finish came when it was Taichi and Henare, with Taichi using a Buzzsaw kick and Superkick followed by the Stretch Plum for the submission victory in about 12 minutes.
A pretty good tag match but could have used some more nearfalls and a lot more tagging in and out from the Hontai team. ***1/4
MOST VIOLENT PLAYERS (TOGI MAKABE & TORU YANO) & DRAGON LEE DEF. BULLET CLUB (TAMA TONGA, TANGA LOA & TAIJI ISHIMORI)
A decent match to advance the storyline of all of the wrestlers involved here. In the preview of this card that I co-authored with John Carroll, I expected the Juniors to be the glue that holds this match together. That turned out to be true. Strangely enough, I also predicted more comedy in this match than there actually was.
Now I know that comedy in New Japan can be a divisive subject, but the relative lack of comedy here didn’t exactly help this match.
The match opened hot with a Lee vs. Ishimori sequence. Lee took control early, but a Kendo Stick shot from Jado allowed Ishimori to go on the offensive. Dragon Lee was really over with the crowd and the interactions here did a great job in selling their upcoming title match.
Ultimately we then reach the MVP vs. GOD portion of the match. It wasn’t bad, but it was just kind of there.
The finish came when Yano rolled up Tanga Loa after Makabe hit a double Lariat on GOD as they were about to double team Yano. ***
MIKEY NICHOLLS DEF. CHASE OWENS
In my preview of this match, I basically said this was a do-or-die match for Nicholls to prove he can be a great singles competitor in New Japan. This may come off as a cop-out but let’s give Nicholls another chance because of the way this match turned out.
While Nicholls is walking down the entrance ramp, Jado comes from behind and whacks him with the Kendo Stick. Owens then takes control… for almost the entire rest of the match.
Now that’s not a totally bad thing. Owens looked good here. He did his savage stuff like the Russian Leg Sweep into the guardrail and just beat the crap out of Nicholls for several minutes.
Nicholls got one big comeback spot with some Lariats, a Spinebuster, a Death Valley Driver and a Sliding Lariat for a near fall.
Owens was soon back on the offensive got in a few moves, began to run the ropes and ran right into a Mikey Bomb for the three count. Nicholls really didn’t get a chance to show much here. And the crowd was pretty quiet too, because there wasn’t anything dramatic for them to get excited over. Owens looked good though. **3/4
HIROOKI GOTO & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI DEF. BULLET CLUB (JAY WHITE & HIKULEO)
Despite losing the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Okada, White still retains his heel heat. And thanks to that, he has managed to get more babyface heat for Goto than I’ve heard in some time. I think that augurs well for their upcoming singles match.
This match started off slow, with White beginning the match and then quickly tagging out to a bunch of heel heat.
But I thought this match built to something pretty decent by the end.
Hikuleo wasn’t bad in this match, he was mostly just there. However, he deserves credit for a really good cover of a botched spot. Taguchi went for a Springboard Flying Hip Attack, and when he was on the ropes you could see that he slipped a bit, causing him not to get very good distance on the move. Hikuleo covers by moving right out of the way making it look like he was actively trying to avoid the move, and then Hikuleo immediately picked up Taguchi and powerslammed him.
Goto and White had some really good sequences against each other, trading Saito Suplexes, and White countering attempts at the Ushigoroshi.
Finish saw it down to Goto vs. Hikuleo. Gedo jumped on the apron for a distraction but then Goto shoved White into Gedo allowing for Goto to hit a Ushigoroshi on White that kept him down, and then a Ushigoroshi followed by a GTR on Hikuleo for the win. Nothing spectacular but it built to Goto vs. White very well with their hot exchanges. ***1/4
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (TETSUYA NAITO, EVIL, SANADA, SHINGO TAKAGI & BUSHI) DEF. CHAOS (KAZUCHIKA OKADA, TOMOHIRO ISHII, YOSHI-HASHI, SHO & YOH)
As John Carroll pointed out in our preview, these CHAOS vs. LIJ multi-man matches are like pizza. Even the weaker ones are good. However, I thought this was definitely one of the better ones.
This starts before the bell even rings because EVIL and Ishii look like they are about to throw down to tease their upcoming match but their teams separate them and YOH and Takagi start the match proper.
Of course, after a short sequence between YOH and Takagi, Ishii and EVIL are tagged in a begin to have a long strike exchange that ruled.
From that point, we got previews of all the big upcoming matches. Okada and SANADA went at it for a bit and in my favorite part of the match, we got a hot SHO vs. Takagi sequence.
This match was a bit on the longer side for an undercard multi-man at 16:31, but it flew by and was never slow. However, when the 15-minute mark was called and it was Naito and YOSHI-HASHI in the ring, it’s kind of obvious how this match was going to end. YOSHI-HASHI fell to a Destino from Naito, though he was able to get a near fall of his own with a Lariat in the closing sequence.
This match was everything it needed to be and built all of the upcoming matches perfectly. But I’d say coming out of this, the match I want to see most is the LIJ vs. Roppongi 3K IWGP Jr. Tag Title match given how heated things got between those teams here. ***3/4
IWGP UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
JUICE ROBINSON © DEF. BAD LUCK FALE
In my prediction, I said that the ceiling of this match was *** and I wrote: “I would honestly not be against Bullet Club shenanigans in this context if this match is kept to like nine minutes and Juice wins definitively. That would probably be better than trying to have a straight wrestling match involving Fale that goes beyond 10 minutes.”
Well I was completely wrong. And what is even more embarrassing about this is that I was wrong about one of my favorite wrestlers, Juice Robinson. I love him even more now.
This match went 17:25 and featured no Bullet Club shenanigans. But instead of this turning out to be a bad match, I, in fact, loved it. Call it the Miracle in Nagoya.
Story of this match was simple. Juice tried to bodyslam Fale, was unable to do so, then Fale spent the rest of this match working over Juice’s back.
Juice kept trying to go for Bodyslams and Fale blocked him every time.
Eventually, Juice got back on the offensive, but he kept selling his back. For example, he hit a Cannonball in the corner on Fale and then immediately sold the back, unable to follow up on it.
Great finishing stretch where Juice kicked out of the Grenade, escaped from the Bad Luck Fall, hit the Left Hand of God, Top Rope Cross Body, another Left Hand of God, finally lands a Bodyslam and hits the Pulp Friction for the win and his V3 defense. Hopefully, we’ve now reached the stage where Juice is a dominant U.S. Champion and get the right spot on the card to demonstrate it.
Match had pretty good heat throughout. The crowd was really into Juice. While the extended period when Fale worked over Juice’s back quieted them a bit, there was still a bit of a buzz.
If this match had been clipped a bit particularly the crowd brawling my rating would go even higher. But fuck it, I’m already the high man on this match I’m sure. ***3/4
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
KOTA IBUSHI © DEF. ZACK SABRE JR.
In the preview, I said that their recent New Japan Cup match while still great was not as good as their other matches, and that I was expecting them to save something big for this show. Finally a correct prediction.
This match was awesome. Just two tremendous professional wrestlers working their very distinct styles and showing why they are among the best in the world.
The story was simple. After some competitive stuff early on, ZSJ starts to work over Ibushi’s neck. Ibushi was not worked over for any extended period of time and got in plenty of his own offense, but when you’re against ZSJ you know he’s going to also work in a lot of his holds on the body part he’s targeted throughout the match.
Kevin Kelly had a line during this match that made me laugh. He called ZSJ: “Master of the Dark Art of Catch Wrestling.” While catch wrestling isn’t something you think is a dark art, in fact, it’s supposed to be a clean type of combat, the way that ZSJ does it, really does make it seem like a Dark Art full of brutality.
It’s impossible to summarize everything in this match but one thing that stood out is how Ibushi’s attitude evolved throughout this match. Towards the end, once he had finally managed to regain some momentum he let out his inner asshole. He realized he had to or ZSJ was going to squeeze his neck until Ibushi couldn’t take it anymore. He was kicking ZSJ in the corner while simultaneously distracting Red Shoes. He also had a slap battle towards the end of this match that felt more aggressive than his usual ones, as if that is even possible, but Ibushi manages to pull it off.
Not surprisingly these two had a hell of a finishing sequence with Ibushi escaping from both hold and cradle attempts from ZSJ and managing to land a knee to the chest after a cradle attempt, and win the match with the Kamigoye. One of the best matches so far this year. Ibushi may be ZSJ’s best opponent in New Japan. After the match, Naito comes out to challenge Ibushi again, probably for Dominion but Kevin Kelly speculates at Wrestling Dontaku. I’m betting Dominion but we will have to wait and see. ****1/2
This show should be considered a success. New Japan drew 4731 to Aichi Prefectural Gym for this show. In the past two years, they run three shows a year there. One during the New Japan Cup, one during the G1 Climax, and one during World Tag League. The only shows in the past two years to outdraw Sengoku Lord were the 2017 and 2018 G1 Climax shows. And considering they were just in this venue for the New Japan Cup, they have shown they haven’t burnt themselves out in Nagoya.
Bracketing Wrestle Kingdom 13 and the G1 Supercard at MSG, this might actually be my favorite New Japan show so far this year. There was really only one misfire on the undercard, with Owens and Nicholls, and it wasn’t even terrible. I really got a lot of enjoyment out of the top two matches on the card.
All of the big upcoming matches also got plenty of hype in the undercard tag matches, with Goto vs. White and Roppongi 3K vs. LIJ being my most anticipated moving forward from this show.